Petition urging disqualification of former prime minister on rigging allegations to be heard on March 22
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday rejected a petition filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to halt the formal notification of Yousaf Raza Gilani’s victory in the Senate elections.
Announced around 3 p.m., the verdict of a four-member committee of the ECP had been reserved after the ruling party concluded its arguments. While the plea to halt the notification has been rejected, the ECP announced that it would hear a second petition filed by the PTI about alleged rigging in the Senate elections on March 22.
The second petition concerns a leaked video in which Gilani’s son, Punjab MPA Ali Haider Gilani, is seen “advising” PTI lawmakers on how to “waste” their votes in the Senate polls. The PTI has alleged it proves that the opposition secured support in the Senate polls by “buying” votes through bribes. A leaked audio—also featuring Ali Gilani—of Sindh minister Nasir Hussain Shah allegedly offering money to the PTI lawmakers has also been cited by the PTI as evidence of rigging in the Senate elections.
During today’s proceedings, the ECP reiterated its calls for the government to also nominate lawmakers that were talking to Gilani on how to waste their votes. The PTI’s counsel said the government had attached an affidavit of the individual who recorded the video. “[MNAs] Jamil Ahmed Khan and Fahim Khan are in this video,” he added.
Former prime minister Gilani, the joint candidate for a general Senate seat from Islamabad, defeated the government’s candidate, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in a major upset that resulted in Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking a fresh vote of confidence from the National Assembly to assert that he still enjoyed the support of Parliament.
A week since the Senate elections, the government continues to openly accuse the Pakistan Democratic Movement of using money to influence the Senate elections. The prime minister has personally alleged, on multiple occasions, that he is aware of “billions” being used to ensure the government’s candidate lost in the polls.
Shortly after rejecting the PTI’s petition against notifying Gilani’s victory, the ECP issued a notification about the results from Islamabad. “In pursuance of Section 124 of the Elections Act, 2017 and all other powers enabling it in that behalf, the Election Commission hereby publishes the names of the following candidates returned to the Senate of Pakistan against one General seat and one seat for the category of Women from Federal Capital in place of the Members whose term will expire on March 11, 2021 under clause (3) of Article 59 of the Constitution,” it read, with the names of PPP’s Yousaf Raza Gilani and PTI’s Fawzia Arshad.
PTI spokespersons gathered in front of the ECP after the verdict, and claimed it [verdict] was the “victory of the P.M.’s narrative,” as the petition against the leaked video had been accepted. “If you [Gilani] and your son are issued notices and you are asked to explain whether you used corrupt practices and stole votes, you have lost the ethical ground to contest Senate chairman election,” claimed Malika Bokhari, as she urged the former prime minister to withdraw from the contest scheduled for March 12.
The ruling party’s Farrukh Habib similarly claimed that the ECP’s acceptance of the petition meant that it believed the leaked video was “credible.”